Chinatown storekeepers oppose towers

For Immediate release
16 March 2011

Chinatown Storekeepers Oppose Towers

 Twenty-six Chinatown storekeepers have signed a letter opposing 12- and 15-storey condo towers that city council will vote on tomorrow night.

 The signatures mean that support for Chinatown towers is not as unanimous as suggested by the leaders of Chinatown business and social organizations.

 Volunteers opposed to the towers gathered the signatures in twelve hours, spread over three days last week.  They are urging council to delay tower-approval and instead reverse the exclusion of Chinatown from a local planning process announced last month.

 One Pender Street shop owner, Agnes Li, after signing the letter, said: “We're afraid that the high towers will bring even higher taxes for small businesses. Small businesses like us don't get subsidies like London Drugs [at Woodwards] does. We need the City's support."

 “They haven't made it any better for the little guys. Big business doesn't need the support, we do."

 Volunteers Raymond Lee and Rider Cooey collected signatures on behalf of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council.  They said they worked as a team, visiting stores up and down Pender Street, and found it wasn’t hard to get signatures, though the process was time-consuming.

Jordan Eng, vice-president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association, said “The business people, the cultural groups, and the heritage groups are all in favour of this.”

But Claudia Li, a bilingual collector of signatures, said: “Leaders of Chinatown organizations have agreed among themselves to support the towers.  But we find that people at street level have a range of opinions, and many oppose the towers and support our demand for inclusion of Chinatown in the Local Area Planning Process. 

“Our business organizations say they think condo towers will ‘revitalize’ the shopping areas of Chinatown.  But who’s going to live in those towers?  Not low-income people.  Right now it’s low-income people who shop every day and support those markets. 

“Where will the customers live when the condos come in?  And will new condo owners buy from the sidewalk markets—or will they want to shop in more upscale stores?  The sidewalk stores are an authentic part of Chinatown, and they’ll be at risk if they depend on condo customers.                                                         

Contact             Rider Cooey 604.872-1382 
                         Claudia Li 604-723-0134








 March 8, 2011

 Dear Mayor and Council,

 I oppose the city’s plan for 12-15 storey condo towers in Chinatown. 

 I understand that profits from taller buildings can help pay for renovations of Chinatown heritage buildings on Pender Street.  City council should find another way to pay for fixing up our heritage buildings besides allowing big towers in Chinatown. 

 Risks to store operators are too high.  Property values, assessments and taxes will increase.  Our rents will increase.  We cannot afford this.  Our customers cannot afford this.  Owners will not renew leases so stores that can afford higher rents can move in.  We will have to move somewhere else.   Where will we go?    

 Please do not approve towers in Chinatown on March 17th.   Please work on a plan that protects the good fortune and prosperity of small businesses in Chinatown.